Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cells in the ovaries multiply and grow abnormally.
Signs You Should Get Help for Ovarian Cancer
It's very important not to ignore the early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. That's because ovarian cancer is very treatable if diagnosed early (the five-year survival rate for early-stage ovarian cancer is 80% to 90%.) The five-year-survival rate for advanced-stage ovarian cancer drops to 28% to 40%.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Bloating: Almost every woman has experienced bloating, an uncomfortable feeling of fullness in your belly. While it is normal to feel bloated, especially around your monthly cycle, consistent bloating that lasts every day for up to three weeks is not. And bloating accompanied by abdominal distension (visible swelling in your stomach) could be a red flag that there is a problem.
- Constipation: Constipation is a common symptom — especially if it is not relieved by any intervention.
- Prolonged pain: Persistent pressure in the abdomen and pelvis and/or lower back pain that lasts for one to three weeks can signal a problem. While this vague ovarian cancer symptom can accompany any number of conditions, it is important to note if the pain is new to you, it does not come and go, and cannot be easily attributed to other factors.
- Change in bladder function: If you are experiencing any pain or urgency, you may think it is a urinary tract infection (or UTI), but it can also be a reproductive problem like ovarian cancer.
- Difficulty eating: A loss of appetite is a common symptom.
Talk to your doctor if your symptoms are sustained — they don’t come and go, they do not go away within one to three weeks, or over-the-counter medications don’t help. By recognizing these early symptoms, you will have a good chance to catch — and treat — the disease before it progresses. If your doctor suspects ovarian cancer, you will have the following tests:
- A pelvic exam
- A GI evaluation, which includes a physical exam and possibly GI tests (endoscopy and colonoscopy)
- Blood work
- CT scan, MRI or ultrasound
Ovarian Cancer Treatment at Rush
At Rush, your ovarian cancer care is tailored to you. Your treatment will depend on stage (how far the cancer has spread) and grade (the kind of cancer cells).
If your doctor suspects you have ovarian cancer, you will undergo a biopsy to obtain a tissue sample and potentially additional tests, such as X-ray or CT, may also be performed.
Your ovarian cancer treatment may include the following:
- Radiation therapy
- Surgery (at Rush, doctors often use robotic surgery (da Vinci) to perform gynecological surgeries)
Because gynecologic oncologists at Rush are also researchers, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial evaluating a novel treatment that might not be available to you elsewhere.
You can also explore services offered through the supportive oncology program at Rush. The program offers complementary therapies that can enhance cancer treatments by reducing the mental and physical stresses. The program also offers acupuncture, biofeedback, guided imagery, counseling, massage therapy, yoga and more.
Genetic Testing to Assess Risk for Ovarian Cancer
If you have a family risk for ovarian cancer, we offer genetic testing for ovarian cancer. If you test positive for genetic mutations, our team can help you take preventive measures to lower your risk. Genetic testing can also help with surveillance testing that can lead to detecting ovarian cancer early when it is most treatable.
- Chemoprevention: If your genetic testing find that you are at risk for ovarian cancer, you can be treated with chemoprevention — oral medications that can significantly reduce your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
- Surgery: If you are at risk for ovarian cancer and you're done having children, you can have your ovaries removed to eliminate your risk.
Rush Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Care
- Nationally ranked care: U.S. News & World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center among the best in the nation for cancer and gynecologic care.
- Caring for you with leading-edge innovation and research: As a principal member of the National Cancer Institute's Gynecology Oncology Group, Rush is at the forefront of gynecological cancer care and research, giving you access to several clinical trials and treatments for ovarian cancer that might not be available elsewhere.
- Experts in genetic counseling: Our highly trained cancer genetic specialists will work with you to determine your hereditary risk for ovarian cancer syndrome (BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes) and provide genetic counseling to help you determine the next steps.
- Expertise in minimally invasive surgery: Our gynecologic oncologists are some of the country’s leading laparoscopic and robotic surgeons. Rush University Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in the city to use the da Vinci Surgical System. This advanced surgical technology offers a minimally invasive alternative for complex ovarian cancer surgery, a procedure that means less pain and you can return home the same or next day.
- Advanced diagnostic tools: Researchers at Rush are investigating better screening tools for detecting ovarian cancer in its early stages.